November 22nd, 2010

Secret Service memories

We all know what members of the Secret Service do: they protect the President and First Family from attack. But we don’t often think about the details of what that actually involves.

Here’s a very matter-of-fact narrative from Clint Hill, the agent assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy 47 years ago in Dallas. That day, he was standing on the running board of the car behind the president and his wife when he heard the first shot. Here’s Hill’s description:

I heard an explosive noise from my right rear. As I turned toward the sound, I scanned the presidential limousine and saw the president grab at his throat and lurch to the left.

I jumped off the running board and ran toward his car. I was so focused on getting to the president and Mrs. Kennedy to provide them cover that I didn’t hear the second shot.

I was just feet away when I heard and felt the effects of a third shot. It hit the president in the upper right rear of his head, and blood was everywhere. Once in the back seat, I threw myself on top of the president and first lady so that if another shot came, it would hit me instead.

We have seen the photos, and we know what Hill saw up close and personal: the president’s head was explosively blown apart. But as an agent, Hill was trained to go towards the carnage—to throw himself over his charges so that he would die rather than them, and to do this consciously and willingly. This is a level of service and sacrifice most of us can hardly imagine, much less perform.

14 Responses to “Secret Service memories”

  1. Cris Says:

    Dave Grossman expressed this in a piece called On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs.

  2. CV Says:

    Reminds me of the first responders who rushed INTO the World Trade Center on 9-11, surely knowing that they weren’t likely to come back out.

  3. Artfldgr Says:

    This is a level of service and sacrifice most of us can hardly imagine, much less perform.

    You would be surprised…

    you only have to see the SAME thing in a different context to know that MANY of us have that same commitment to each other.

    Not to diminish what they do, but contraire, to expand what we all commonly do that we no longer are allowed to note, so that we think that professionals do better (they often dont)

    Man Is Rescued by Stranger on Subway Tracks

    Mr. Autrey was waiting for the downtown local at 137th Street and Broadway in Manhattan around 12:45 p.m. He was taking his two daughters, Syshe, 4, and Shuqui, 6, home before work.

    Nearby, a man collapsed, his body convulsing. Mr. Autrey and two women rushed to help, he said. The man, Cameron Hollopeter, 20, managed to get up, but then stumbled to the platform edge and fell to the tracks, between the two rails.

    The headlights of the No. 1 train appeared. “I had to make a split decision,” Mr. Autrey said.

    So he made one, and leapt.

    Mr. Autrey lay on Mr. Hollopeter, his heart pounding, pressing him down in a space roughly a foot deep. The train’s brakes screeched, but it could not stop in time.

    Five cars rolled overhead before the train stopped, the cars passing inches from his head, smudging his blue knit cap with grease. Mr. Autrey heard onlookers’ screams. “We’re O.K. down here,” he yelled, “but I’ve got two daughters up there. Let them know their father’s O.K.” He heard cries of wonder, and applause.

    Homeless good samaritan killed while saving a mugging victim

    and there is another story i dont have the time to find, so if you all will forgive me telling it without a reference i would like to add it. (correction, while typing i got enough details to find it so i replace my words with the actual words 🙂 )

    Heroic Skydiving Instructor Saves Life
    Dave Hartsock Takes Brunt of Impact and Becomes Paralyzed after Parachutes Tangle

    For her 54th birthday, the grandmother of three decided to send herself airmail – by jumping out of a plane from 13,000 feet. CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports Dygert was strapped to her instructor in what’s called a tandem jump.
    There isn’t any video of what happened next, just still photos.
    At 40 mph and 500 feet from the ground, Hartsock did the truly unimaginable. Just before crashing, he told Shirley to lift up her feet. He then pulled down the control toggles to rotate their position to put his body under hers to act as a cushion so that when they hit, he would take the brunt of the fall.

    “I can’t hardly believe it,” Dygert said. “He broke my fall.”

    Hartsock didn’t die, but his valor cost him dearly. He’s now paralyzed with just a little movement in his right arm.

    “People keep telling me that it was a heroic thing to do,” Hartsock said. “In my opinion it was just the right thing to do. I mean, I was the one who was completely responsible for her safety. What other choices were there?”

    i can spend weeks posting all the examples of equal heroism… clear thinking… etc.. (most will by far be men – unappreciated culturally)

    ONE last thing that has a kind of bearing to the Kennedy assassination.

    Charles Whitman, and the Texas A&M tower

    he was trained by the same people that trained lee harvy oswald.. Oswald used a The 6.5 mm Carcano rifle, and Whitman had Remington 700 6mm bolt-action hunting rifle with a 4x Leupold Scope, an M1 carbine, a Remington .35 caliber pump rifle and other stuff. Some of Whitmans shots were incredible, and so, clearly indicate that he shot what he was aiming at with intent.

    If it was not for citizenry who responded with rifles themselves and so created a blanket of fire that kept whitman tied down, he would have done a lot more damage and it would have taken a lot longer.

    the thing in that case to remember is that every person who was coming out to fire at Whitman, was also standing in the line of fire of a man whose shooting was so good, he shot a pregnant womans baby, then took out the man next to here who kneeled next to her when she collapsed, not knowing what happened. Claire Wilson was her name, Thomas Eckman was his.

    key here BESIDES all the people who got off their couches, brought hunting rifles and kept shooting to pin him down was a man named Allen Crum…

    he didnt know how to shoot a gun well, and in his nervousness discahrged it, which ended up as a perfect distraction, and whitman was killed.

    But Allen Crum, average Joe, took a borrowed gun, and without training or anything, went up against a man whose was trained by the US Marine Corps.

    such boldness is all over…
    we ignore it all the time…

  4. The Den Mother Says:

    When you think about it, Secret Service, military personnel, and the like are a sort of anti-politician. Politicians run from a crisis, point the finger at someone else, even throw their allies under the bus, all in an effort to make someone else take the proverbial bullet instead of themselves.

    We all remember the names of people who were assassinated, but how many of us can name even one Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty? I can’t. I’m not even sure how many (if any) there are. I’m not proud of that.

  5. The Den Mother Says:

    Artfldgr: Your examples are remarkable precisely because they depict uncommon courage. I agree with you that some people are capable of heroic acts that perhaps even they couldn’t have imagined before it became necessary. But neo’s point as I read it is that far fewer would choose a career in which one of the primary functions is to die in order to save someone else.

  6. gatorbait51 Says:

    Whitman was in the University of Texas (Austin) tower. Now we have gun control so we’re all safer, right ? Down in most parts of the South, Gun control means a sharp eye and a steady hand…

  7. gatorbait51 Says:

    By the way, in the 4 branches of the Military , there exists a small group called EOD . All volunteer, always has been, the top 1% are recruited , about 40% make it in a good year. We went after the explosive , chemical nuclear nasties everyone else was supposed to run from. Best job I ever had …

  8. uncleFred Says:

    One moment from 9/11 that will never leave me is a question asked by a reporter of a Fire Chief shortly after the towers came down. Without thought about her question, she asked basically, why the firemen didn’t try to get out. His response as I remember it “Firemen run into burning buildings, not away from them”. Then he turned and walked away.

  9. elmondohummus Says:

    As already mentioned before, but bears mentioning again and again: This is what impresses me about the first responders (firefighters, policemen, PANYNJ (Port Authority New York, New JerseY) officers, and paramedics) during 9/11. Studying the history of that day, you’re struck by the amount of testimonies that the towers were indeed compromised, yet they still willingly rushed in to help people. And some were caught in the towers collapses because of their dedication.

    But we also need to remember others who also risked themselves. Risk Rescorla, Security Chief for the Morgan Stanley Dean Whitter firm and former hero of the Ia Drang battle in the Vietnam war (documented in the book and movie We Were Soliders Once, and Young, not only worked tirelessly to get everyone out of the towers (in the face of some other misguided security officials’ advice to stay put… yes, some building officials went so far as to tell people to go back to their offices) but also went back in to look for stragglers. He was caught in and died during the North Tower collapse.

    Also: Frank DeMartini, architect, also willingly entered the damaged North Tower to conduct an assessment of it’s soundness; his was one of the first warnings of potential failure, and unfortunately, his warning ended up being true and killing him.

    As a side note, this is why 9/11 truthers piss me off to no end. They deny the basic, well documented, and well proven history in order to substitute a paranoid, delusionary narrative that’s to their own liking. The real history has as much bravery as it does tragedy – need we be reminded of the United 93 passengers brave attack on the cockpit in that flight’s final moments? — and truther idiots prefer to ignore that in favor of idiotic lies.

    At any rate, there is plenty of bravery outside the already known bravery of the first responders. Comparing them to the Secret Service personnel who willingly put their own lives on the line is quite appropriate, I belive.

  10. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    Charles Whitman, and the Texas A&M tower

    Actually, that was the University of Texas tower, in Austin. A&M didn’t build a tower until the late 80s.

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    I agree with you that some people are capable of heroic acts that perhaps even they couldn’t have imagined before it became necessary. But neo’s point as I read it is that far fewer would choose a career in which one of the primary functions is to die in order to save someone else.

    The death rate of farmers is higher than the death rate of soldiers in iraq.

    the actual number of secret service men who have had to die on the job is how many?

    so technically, you go into the job, but the likely hood of your demonize in it is a lot lower than GARBAGE MEN…

    Here is the top ten list for the deadliest jobs in theUnited States:

    1. Fishing / 200 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers

    2. Logging / 61.8 per 100,000.

    3. Pilots / Flight Engineers / 57.1 per 100,000.

    4. Farming / Ranching / 38.5 per 100,000.

    5. Structural Iron and Steel Workers 30.3 per 100,000.

    6. Garbage Collector / Recyclables Collector / 25.2 per 100,000.

    7. Roofing / construction laborers

    8. Installers and Repairmen Working on Electrical Power Lines.

    9. Truck Drivers / 18.5 per 100,000

    10. Coal Mining.

    its MY believe that those unsung people who ACTUALLY die are the real risk takers.

    see secret service man above in that list?

    see police in that list (not since women are on the force).

    see firemen?

    So who is the REAL risk taker the modern american soldier, or his opponent?

    who is the real risk taker, the secret service man who in the modern history only had to act twice (Kennedy and Reagan) and neither times died?

    or is it the average joe who stands up and dies?

    over 95% of work related deaths are MALES…
    don’t see the parity army equalizing that one, do you?

    TECHNICALLY the young man who goes out fishing to put a sea food meal on your table is taking a much higher risk of actually dying AND HE KNOWS IT, than the secret service man.

    he would have a much better chance at a pretty nice life if he was ABLE to join secret service, and not fish!

    [edited for length by n-n]

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    Thanks for the correction on the tower, actual books get it wrong… sorry i slipped up… 🙁

  13. LisaM Says:

    I might have that instinct to save my son, but not a stranger or acquaintance.

    This also struck me during the attempted assassination of Reagan. Normal human instinct is to protect oneself. The Secret Service agent unhesitatingly used himself to block further shots.

    Unfortunately, a student brought a loaded gun to our local high school last week. A friend asked her 14-year old son what he would do if someone in his classroom started shooting. He said, “I’d rush him and take him down so he wouldn’t hurt anyone else.” He wants to be a Marine.

  14. Occam's Beard Says:

    But as an agent, Hill was trained to go towards the carnage—to throw himself over his charges so that he would die rather than them, and to do this consciously and willingly. This is a level of service and sacrifice most of us can hardly imagine, much less perform.

    Almost as heroic as community organizers. /spit

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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